This study is evaluating the ecological impacts of culvert replacements on Padden Creek near Bellingham, Washington. Padden Creek supports runs of coho and chum salmon and migrating Chinook salmon and steelhead trout. WSDOT began construction in April 2021 to replace two culverts that have slopes that prevent fish passage to improve habitat for migratory species and other wildlife along the 2.7 miles of Padden Creek between Padden Lake and Bellingham Bay. A contractor is replacing the existing concrete box culvert at I-5 with two fish passable bridges and the double concrete box culvert at SR 11 with a 20-foot single span concrete box culvert. To evaluate the impacts of those replacements, UW researchers are sampling the water for DNA at Padden Creek and two control creeks monthly through September 2022. They will develop molecular assays for three to five species that are a priority for WSDOT, such as salmonids, lamprey, and freshwater mussels, by using CRISPR-Cas12a technology. The goal is to hand off these assays to WSDOT and other state agencies so that they may autonomously use these techniques in the future for evaluating these and other waterways.
Principal Investigator: Ryan Kelly, School of Marine & Environmental Affairs, UW